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In recent years leading up to Argentina’s 2001 financial crisis, thousands of factories have closed and millions of jobs have been lost. Many workers have decided to defeat the destiny of unemployment, taking over their workplace and recuperating their dignity as workers. More than 180 recuperated enterprises are up and running, employing more than 10,000 Argentine workers at cooperative-run businesses, which were closed down by bosses and reopened by employees. In almost all cases workers took over businesses that had been abandoned or closed by their owners in the midst of a financial crisis.
Many worker controlled factories today face hostility and frequently violence from the state. Workers have had to organize themselves against violent eviction attempts and other acts of state violence. This impacts the workers and the enterprises as it means that employees have to leave the work place, invest energy in a legal battle and fight for laws in favor of worker recuperated businesses.
To counter oppose an uncertain legal future, many recuperated enterprises have mobilized to press for the government to resolve their cooperative’s legal status. On October 27, workers from Renacer domestic appliance cooperative, CUC worker run shoe company, BAUEN hotel, City Hotel, Bahía Blanca ex-Paloni slaughter house, La Foresta meat packing cooperative and Zanon-FaSinPat worker run ceramics plant rallied outside a federal court to push for a national expropriation law.
Many of the recuperated enterprises have functioned and competed in a capitalist market for years with no legal standing. Without legal support, many worker run businesses have fallen behind in competition, unable to catch an edge on the market and get rid of middlemen. Since 2003, workers have operated the BAUEN cooperative hotel with no legal standing or government subsidies. Since taking over the hotel on March 21, 2003, the workers have slowly begun to clean up the ransacked hotel and rent out the hotel’s services. The hotel re-opened with 40 employees and now employs some 150 workers.
Employees rallied throughout December last year to pressure the Buenos Aires city government to veto a law in favor of putting the hotel back into the hands of the former owner. The B.A. government refused to veto the law. If the BAUEN cooperative does not succeed in pushing through a new favorable law they risk losing their hotel. A dozen workers from Renacer (Ex-Aurora) traveled over 5,000 kilometers for the rally in Buenos Aires, to press for the permanent expropriation of their plant. The Renacer domestic appliance producer cooperative formed in 2000 after the former owner decided to shut down operations, owing banks and workers’ thousands of dollars in unpaid salaries. The plant formerly known as Aurora produced washing machines. For decades industry activity had declined in the region, which is the most expensive places,
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